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radium in the spring [Apr. 12th, 2006|11:28 pm]
I'm back from visiting Mom & Larry up in the mountains. Went to a couple Conference on World Affairs talks today, and then, since I was up in Boulder anyway, did laundry at the laundromat with the centrifuges. Oh, and I did my taxes. Whee!

Radium is always relaxing because it is so quiet.

It's definitely spring. The weather was absolutely lovely, and things are starting to bloom. There were little sprays of color, almost like oil-painting brushstrokes, all along the tops of things. Oh, and new animals: Mom & Larry are taking care of a calf, because his mother refuses to let him nurse. So I got to feed him a couple times. It's kinda scary how fast a calf can drink a half-gallon bottle of formula. Also got to see a colt that had been born the previous day. It's amazing how finished herbivores are when they're born, especially compared to human babies, which are definitely only half-cooked.

There were a couple hundred deer (I'm not exaggerating -- I counted 44 next to the road when we went to shut off one of the irrigation ditches) wandering around nearby. And we heard a turkey in the woods when I was leaving.

Mom has a neat encyclopedic cookbook from the '60s (first written in 1950), which I poked through a bit while I was up there. It's interesting to compare how very different cooking is now than it was half a century ago. Stuff like which ingredients are easily available, and the fact that meat these days is MUCH leaner. Man, did they use a lot of fat! Some of the dishes were just scary (even allowing for improvements in food photography, which has come a long ways). Other things I found interesting:

People used to brutalize vegetables: most of the recipes call for boiling your veggies for twenty minutes.

And they used a whole lot more veal and organ meats than we do these days.

Cooking in the '60s (or maybe the '50s, or both) was all about arrangement: you can't make a meatloaf, you have to mold your meatloaf into a ring, stick a whole cauliflower in the middle, and then put cooked pears studded with cloves all around the outside. I'm totally serious.

Oh, and pineapple. My god, they used pineapple in everything. Here's my favorite example of how much people's tastes have broadened in half a century: they had a recipe for "chinese chicken gravy". It starts off with a bunch of normal ingredients for chicken gravy: stock, fat, flour, etc. Okay. Then we've got a quarter cup of slivered almonds, okay. Now, here's the bit that gives it "a Far-Eastern flavor": one teaspoon of soy sauce and TWO AND A HALF CUPS of crushed pineapple! Dear god.

There were also plenty of good-sounding recipes, too, but they're not as fun to talk about.

Mom talked about various things she used to eat as a child, and we got onto the subject of fashions and the fact that retro doesn't come back around until enough time has passed that the people who grew up with it are no longer among the fashionable crowd.

Oh, and for dinner on Monday, we had a very good oriental salad (from mix, I think), corn on the cob, and these truly AMAZING steaks. A cut called "chuck-eye", between the rib-eye and the chuck. Super-tender and very flavorful.

Installed the Gimp and Inkscape on their computer. Wrote stuff. Sat around and petted the cat.

Drove home yesterday and I wish I could take pictures that match what I see when driving, because the evening light was gorgeous.

I'm listening to a couple tracks from Rent over and over (La Vie Boheme and Tango Maureen), which is what I always end up doing with new songs I really like. But I should go to bed soon, so I can get up early enough to go to CWA tomorrow for a talk in the morning titled Weird Science. Suddenly I have lots of things I want/need to do with the rest of my vacation.

[User Picture]From: bats22
2006-04-13 05:29 am (UTC)
Radium is always relaxing because it is so quiet.

Yes, and such a lovely emitter of alpha particles as well!

Oh wait... you must mean this small unincorporated rural community. Nevermind....

Actually, it reminds me of when I was helping my former company refine the northern zones of our climate map. I was looking up climate data for places like Tungsten, Northwest Territories and Uranium City, Saskatchewan. The name of the place does a good job of answering, "Why the hell are there people living up here?" ("Because we take rocks out of the ground and sell them here.")
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-04-13 06:50 am (UTC)
Yup, exactly. Although, I don't know that it actually warrants being called a full-on "community", when all of 12 people live there...
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2006-04-13 06:28 am (UTC)


Where's the radium part?

My uncle is a pilot and he used to let me look at his flight maps.

"What are these blank spots on the map?" I asked.

"Those are the parts where there is too much naturally occurring radium to be able to get an accurate read from any of the instruments."

Colorado is riddled with "blank spots." I remember thinking at that point there must be some perfectly natural explanations for phenomena like the Bermuda triangle.

Then there's the old-timers' tales about rolling in mine tailings and playing glow-'n-the-dark hide and seek. But you grew up here, so you probably know about that, too.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2006-04-13 06:51 am (UTC)

Re: Radium

See Bats' comment, above. The wikipedia article actually has a photo! My parents' house is several miles up the hill from there.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2006-04-13 06:34 am (UTC)


Food: I think my mother may have had that encyclopedia. They are about the size of those Time Life books and 12-15 volumes. She gave them away and we are still bemoaning the loss of our favorite banana bread recipe.

Food fashions don't tend to come back in the same way as some of the retro things. I remember watching one of those PBS reality shows where people were living in an Edwardian manor house. They had meat lockers where they stored the meat, and it was served when it was a lot riper than we eat it now. This threw the modern reenactors into hysterics. "You are serving us rotten meat!" The food on the show was a constant source of conflict, because period food, especially for upstairs, tended to not appeal to modern sensibilities.

That being said, I did notice an upsurgence of weird 60s meat-style appetizers when everyone was on the no-carb diet. Chicken livers wrapped in bacon, etc.

The non-fattiness of modern meat is something that drives me bonkers. You can't cook the meat in the same way without it, or have to find some fat substitute. This is one of the things I was talking about when I posted about wanting to learn "meats."
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[User Picture]From: ng_nighthawk
2006-04-13 09:11 am (UTC)
People used to brutalize vegetables: most of the recipes call for boiling your veggies for twenty minutes.

I think (although I may be calling the wine fresh here) that people used to believe that raw vegetable fiber was too harsh on your system. You needed to boil it a lot to keep it from scraping your insides raw.
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From: detailbear
2006-04-13 10:18 am (UTC)
I always thought it was leftover from the days of bad teeth. No one could chew it unless it was boiled to pulp, mashed or creamed.
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2006-04-13 04:34 pm (UTC)
It sounds like what you need is The Gallery of Regrettable Food! (And the book is hilarious, too.)

I remember that the first time I looked through this site was a night when Rob had food poisoning, and I had to stay up lest he get into trouble. I just find that amusing.
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[User Picture]From: melted_snowball
2006-04-14 11:01 am (UTC)
I have four or five old Joy of Cooking volumes, and it is interesting to see how things have changed.

One thing to recall is that the extent to which cookbook cooking is everyday cooking is much higher now than it was 50 years ago when girls learned to cook more consistently from their moms (and when convenience foods also meant that people cooked a lot of crap to their families...). So even in a mainstream cookbook you'll see a lot higher amount of "for company" food.

As to pineapples, well, we say the same thing about the '80s and kiwi...
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